Part of the misery of retirement is having time to play golf at nice places. I shouldn’t joke – many people have not the health, time, money, or perhaps interest, to do this. So it is with appreciation that I share this story.
Last week friends and I played at the US Mecca of golf – Pinehurst, in Pinehurst, NC. Pinehurst is located in the middle of, well, pine trees. You can hear the mortar practice from Fort Bragg, and it is about equidistant south of Raleigh and east of Charlotte.
None of that matters. Once you get to Pinehurst, originally designed by Donald Ross and built in 1895, you know you are visiting something special. The town is quaint, the houses in town are to die for, and there are clearly more amenities than golf available that we did not take advantage of in our short stay.
Part of the tradition, magic, and history are the people there. This is a place where many people have worked for years. For example, at the clubhouse there are two gentlemen, Frolin Hatcher and Larry Goins, who greet golfers to Pinehurst and take their bags. Between the two of them, they share about a century of experience at Pinehurst. They probably have more experience with world class professional golfers than just about anyone. For both pros and mere-mortal golfers, these two are likely the first contact you have with Pinehurst, and that is part of the magic. Here we are with Frolin; he’s probably already bragging about meeting us.
Pinehurst is steeped in golf history, as it has been and continues to be a core site for the US Open. With nine (yes, nine) golf courses surrounding the hotels and clubhouses, it oozes golf. There are nine golf courses that are so numbered, 1 through 9. Course #2, which we played first, is home to the US Open. We played #2, #4, and #8 during our stay.
If you have read any of my previous posts mentioning golf, you know there is no way I deserved to be playing golf at Pinehurst. Think Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack. When your friends spot you 40 strokes, is that good, or should one be offended?? So I got that going for me, which is nice.
Not so much for me, but more for less skilled golfers, there are huge practice facilities adjacent to the clubhouse. While today we assume practice facilities, back in time these did not exist. When Donald Ross designed these courses, he incorporated practice facilities into the design. If you look closely at the practice putting greens, you get a sense of what is in store for you out on the course. And nothing says love more than cup holders on the practice green.
To co-opt an old line, we had weather only a mother could love. The first day, on #2, was rainy and cold – in the 40’s or low 50’s. “I’d keep playing. I don’t think the heavy stuff’s coming down for quite a while.”
Looking like we were dressed for kayaking more than golf, we set out with our fore caddy. For non-golfers, a fore caddy guides your foursome on where to aim and particulars about each hole. The pro from Dover, so to speak.
Our fore caddy, Cade, was great. He would give us advice, like hit a draw to about 220 yards, or approach this shot with back spin, but don’t let it go long. To me, he would say, try not to kill anyone. Brilliant. Do you get a free bowl of soup with that hat?
Course #2 has only one glimpse of water, and you would be hard pressed to lose a ball on this course. Don’t be fooled – this is an incredibly difficult course, more so due to the greens.
I have no pictures from this round, as my phone was dead, but suffice it to say that this course (truthfully every course) was beautiful. Designed by Donald Ross, all I can say is he must have hated golfers, because almost every green is designed with a crown that makes them the fastest and most challenging greens I have ever played on.
The next two days we played #4 and #8, with cloudy, cold temps in the 40’s and low 50’s with high winds. Perfect. But I like I said, it didn’t matter – we had a fabulous time!
So, were I to go back, what course would I play? For me, this could be a toss-up, or I could check out the other courses. But if I had to choose, I would tend to choose playing either #2 or #8. On the other hand, #4 was awesome as well, with wooden shafts for the flags, and wooden rakes for the sand traps – real old school, and cool.
“What brings you to this nape of the woods, neck of the wape. How come you’re here?”
If you have any interest in the game of golf and the facilities to get there, I could not more highly recommend a visit to Pinehurst. Be the ball.